SINGAPORE - Some 20 minutes after the Singapore Airlines (SIA) flight took off from London, one passenger heard a loud sound, "so loud that it was impossible to hear (anything else)". He felt a rush of air into the plane cabin from a door in front of him, and it became chilly.
Mr Matthew Johnson asked to speak to the in-flight supervisor, who "turned up two hours later" and assured him that all was well. But he did learn that there had been a mild problem with a door when the plane had flown from Singapore to London.
Mr Johnson settled down to watching movies to pass the time. But after a while, the Singapore-bound A380 began an emergency descent, he claimed.
Mr Johnson, who shared his account of the incident on Facebook, was one of 467 passengers and 27 crew members on board SQ317, which was diverted to Baku in Azerbaijan. He has since taken down the post, but another passenger told MyPaper that she thought "we're going to die".
Meanwhile, the issue of the noisy door has been addressed by SIA.
SIA said on its Facebook page that there was "a noise reported from one of the main-deck doors" on the earlier flight, but that the aircraft was "cleared for continued operation" after engineers inspected it in London.
An SIA spokesman said that "cabin depressurisation" forced an emergency landing, and that the root cause is being investigated.
"Oxygen masks were deployed and the aircraft landed uneventfully at Baku airport at 1.03am (local time)," she added. The sight of the masks brought a whiff of panic.
Sales administrator Shereen George, 31, said: "I thought we were going to die when the masks came down."
She said children on board the flight were crying, and that three hours passed before the plane found an airport at which to land - almost 10 hours since it had taken off from London.
Mr Johnson added: "We limped back to Azerbaijan at 10,000 feet (3,000m) trying to avoid the nearby mountains. I...reread the safety card (to) assess our chances of survival should the door fail completely."
The nightmare did not end with the landing.
Hundreds of passengers found themselves stranded at Baku airport. Because of visa issues, SIA could not transfer them to hotels.
The airline roped in staff from Moscow and Istanbul to help the passengers. Meals and beverages were also provided to those in the transit area.
A replacement plane was dispatched from Singapore to Baku airport to pick up the stranded passengers, and was expected to arrive back in Singapore this afternoon.
The Asia managing director of Flightglobal, Mr Greg Waldron, said cases of cabin depressurisation are "extremely rare occurrences", especially in modern aircraft.
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